There are two things that have happened recently that impact this blog. First is a statement, again, by someone who should actually know better, that there is no evidence that UFOs are alien craft. He asks, demands really, just one example of a solid case for the UFO. Ignoring the fact that the debunkers have worked wonders in marginalizing UFO reports by throwing all sorts of ridiculous explanations for the sightings out there, some of which are contradictory, there are some very good cases that have multiple chains of evidence and some very good research attached to them. Any explanation, even if it doesn’t fit the facts will do, just so long as they can claim the sighting is explained in the mundane.
The second point is that, for some reason, there has been an on-going dialogue into the July 1952 UFO sighing near Tremonton, Utah. This is the tale of a Navy warrant officer who filmed a formation of bright objects over the tiny Utah town. The film was studied for months by a number of different organizations but in January 1953, the objects were identified as birds by the CIA sponsored Robertson Panel. (For a lengthy analysis of the motivations of the Robertson Panel see Alien Mysteries, Conspiracies and Cover-Ups, 155 - 174)
Here’s the thing about this movie. Almost everyone talks about what is shown on the film but few mention what the witnesses observed. In 1976, when I interviewed Delbert Newhouse, the Navy photographer, he told me that he and his wife, Norma, saw the objects at close range. He said they were large, disc-shaped things that were brightly lighted. By the time he got the car stopped, dug his camera out of the trunk and put film into it, the objects had moved off so that they looked like bright blobs of white on a bright blue background. It was then that he began filming the formation or cluster or mass, which was now much farther away.
Sure, you could say that in 1976 he had heard more than twenty years of comments about the film, had been interviewed repeatedly and his story certainly could have changed. Ed Ruppelt, the chief of Project Blue Book when the film was shot in his Report on Unidentified Flying Objects wrote:
After I got out of the Air Force I met Newhouse and talked to him for two hours [in 1954, I believe]. I’ve talked to many people who have reported UFOs, but few impressed me as much as Newhouse. I learned that when he and his family first saw the UFOs they were close to the car, much closer than when he took the movie. To use Newhouse’s own words, “If they had been the size of a B-29 they would have been at 10,000 feet altitude.” And the Navy man and his family had taken a good look at the objects – they looked like “two pie pans, one inverted on the top of the other!” He didn’t just think the UFO’s were disk-shaped; he knew that they were; he had plainly seen them. I asked him why he hadn’t told this to the intelligence officer who interrogated him. He said that he had. Then I remember that I’d sent the intelligence officer a list of questions I wanted Newhouse to answer. The question “What did the UFO’s look like?” wasn’t one of them because when you have a picture of something you don’t normally ask what it looks like. Why the intelligence officer didn’t pass this information along to us I’ll never know.
So, it’s clear from the beginning that Newhouse was telling those interested that he had seen the objects up close. He said, from the beginning, that the objects were disc shaped. I don’t think anyone, in those early days, thought to get statements from the wife and the kids. They had the “important” information from a naval officer and were satisfied with that. And even with that, the Air Force didn’t bother to complete the investigation, failing to ask basic questions or seemingly failed to ask them, and according to Ruppelt, didn’t bother to pass along some of the answers.
In the months that followed, the Air Force analyzed the film and when they finished, they had no solution. Ruppelt wrote about that, saying, “All they had to say was ‘We don’t know what they are but they aren’t airplanes or balloons, and we don’t think they are birds.’”
When the Air Force finished, the Navy took over, and they weren’t as restricted in their praise as the Air Force. The Navy experts made a frame by frame examination that took over a thousand man hours. The Navy concluded that the objects were internally lights spheres that were not reflecting sunlight. They also estimated the speed of the objects at 3,780 miles an hour which ruled out aircraft of the time and birds of any time. They had no explanation for what was seen on the film.
But, as I say, never let an independent analysis stand when you can throw cold water on it. Donald Menzel, the Harvard astronomer who never met a UFO sighting he liked and who wasn’t above providing explanations as quickly as he could regardless of the facts, claimed that it had been proven the film showed birds. Such was not the case, except to those with closed minds but Menzel made the claim anyway.
Dr. R. M. L. Baker made an independent study of the film in 1955. He agreed with the Air Force that the film didn’t show aircraft or balloons, and he didn’t think it was some sort of airborne debris or radar chaff either. In disagreement with Menzel, he found the bird explanation “unsatisfactory.”
Given what we know about the University of Colorado UFO study led by Edward U. Condon we could guess what they would conclude about this film. I won’t mention what we now know about the reasons for the study or the directions Condon and his team had been given by the Air Force (see the Hippler Letter March 21, 2007; June 5, 2013) but that certainly influenced their conclusions.
William Hartmann conducted the analysis for the Condon committee. He provided a quick history of the investigations and did mention that during Baker’s investigation Newhouse provided “…substantially the same account, with the additional information: ‘When he got out [of the car], he observed the objects (twelve to fourteen of them) to be directly overhead and milling about. He described them as ‘gun metal colored objects, shaped like two saucers, one inverted of top of the other.’…” (Which sort of reinforces the idea that Newhouse had not radically altered his tale over time.)
Hartmann then made his own analysis, finally concluding, “These observations give strong evidence that the Tremonton films do show birds… and I now regard the objects as so identified.”
But this comes only after Hartmann rejected the statements by Newhouse seeing the objects at close range. He wrote, “The strongest negative argument was stated later by the witness that the objects were seen to subtend an angle of about 0.5 degrees and were then seen as gun metal colored and shaped like two saucers held together rim to rim, but the photographs and circumstances indicate that this observation could not have been meaningful.”
Or, in other words, the statements of Newhouse were unimportant and I suspect the reason being that if they were accepted, then the bird explanation was eliminated. Birds are not shaped like two saucers held together rim to rim.
To add to all this, Baker, in 1969, at a symposium sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science said that while Hartmann’s analysis might be appealing “[The] motion [of the objects] is not what one would expect from a flock of soaring birds; there are erratic brightness fluctuations, but there is no indication of periodic decreases in brightness due to turning with the wind or flapping. No cumulus clouds are shown on the film that might betray the presence of thermal updraft… The motion pictures I have taken of birds at various distances have no similarity to the Utah film.”
Here’s where we are. This is a case of multiple chains of evidence. First is the eyewitness testimony that has been virtually ignored. It is clear from what Ruppelt and others say that some parts of the Project Blue Book file on the case have disappeared. But that doesn’t change the fact that Newhouse and his wife saw the UFOs and what they had to say about it is an important part of the report. Hartmann rejected it almost out of hand.
The second chain of evidence, which is independent of the first, is the film. It provides something that can be taken into the lab and analyzed in various ways. It seems to me that those without a bias (or in the case of the Air Force who leaned toward finding any explanation which now suggests they were arguing against their own interest) couldn’t positively identify the objects. Those who know that there is no alien visitation however, found what they believed to be the solution. The film showed birds.
Here’s the point, finally. Those who know that there is no alien visitation claim that there is no evidence to the contrary. I say the Tremonton, Utah film is evidence of something unusual flying through the atmosphere and if evaluated from a neutral position is not explained by birds. I will freely concede that eliminating the accepted explanation does not lead directly to the extraterrestrial; I will also note that we do have some evidence of an unusual event. I will further note that if Newhouse’s description is accurate then there is no terrestrial explanation for the sighting. Give it an unbiased reading, look at everything through a neutral prism, and you have something that suggests there could be alien visitation. It is, therefore, some of the evidence that many claim does not exist